"The Adventure of the Crooked Man" is a Sherlock Holmes short story by the British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It first appeared in print in the issue of The Strand magazine for July 1893. It would be published again in December of the same year as part of the anthology The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.
In the story, the brilliant consulting detective Sherlock Holmes is asked to investigate the mysterious death of Colonel James Barclay. Colonel Barclay was found dead and his wife was found unconscious inside a locked room. The key to the room could not be found on Mrs. Barclay, on her husband's body or anywhere in the room. Holmes finds footprints which tell him that the room was entered by another man who was accompanied by a small animal.
"The Adventure of the Crooked Man" has been adapted for radio and television.
One summer evening, shortly before midnight, Dr. Watson hears a knock at his front door. He opens it to find his friend and former housemate, the detective Sherlock Holmes. Holmes tells Watson that he has been hired by Major Murphy of the Royal Munsters regiment to investigate the death of Colonel James Barclay. Holmes wants Watson to come with him to Aldershot to help with the investigation.
James Barclay joined the regiment which later became the Royal Munsters as a private. He was promoted as a result of bravery that he showed at the time of the Indian Mutiny. He married Nancy Devoy, the daughter of a colour sergeant. The two remained happily married for thirty years. Colonel and Mrs. Barclay lived with two maids and a coachman in a house in Aldershot called Lachine. The west side of the house, on which there is a living room with large French windows, is visible from the main road behind a low wall.
On the previous Monday evening, the Barclays' coachman took Mrs. Nancy Barclay and her friend Miss Morrison to a meeting of a Roman Catholic charitable organization. After Mrs. Barclay returned home, she and her husband were heard arguing in the living room. Mrs. Barclay was heard shouting, "I will never so much breathe the same air as you again! You coward!" She was also heard to mention the name David. The sound of a man crying out was heard, followed by the sound of a crash and a woman screaming. The door of the living room was found to be locked. The coachman went round the side of the house and saw that one of the French windows was open. He found Mrs. Barclay lying unconscious on a couch and Colonel Barclay dead. The colonel was lying on the floor, near a metal railing in front of the fireplace, with a look of absolute terror on his face. There was a wound on the back of his head which appeared to have been made by a blunt instrument. A wooden club with a bone handle was found near the colonel's body. Although the colonel had a large collection of weapons, the three servants said that they had never seen the club before. The key to the locked door could not be found anywhere in the room and was not on Mrs. Barclay or the body of her dead husband.
On the Tuesday, Holmes went to Aldershot to investigate. He found footprints which revealed that another man had come over the wall of Lachine and entered the living room through the French windows. Holmes also found paw marks left by an animal. Holmes believes the animal to be about fifteen inches long. He knows that it is carnivorous because it climbed a curtain in an attempt to get at a canary in a cage.
Sherlock Holmes questioned Miss Morrison and found out that she had some information which she did not tell the police. After she and Mrs. Barclay had left the meeting and were walking back to the coach, they passed a deformed man with a bent back and bent knees who was carrying a box. The man recognized Mrs. Barclay and cried out in surprise, "My God! It's Nancy!" In turn, Mrs. Barclay recognized the man and said that she thought he had been dead for thirty years. At Mrs. Barclay's request, Miss Morrison left the two to talk in private. At the end of the conversation, Miss Morrison could see the man angrily shaking his fists. Mrs. Barclay told Miss Morrison that the man was an old acquaintance of hers. Miss Morrison promised not to talk about the incident.
Holmes knew that such a usual looking man would not have gone unnoticed in town and that it would not be difficult to find out information about him. Holmes found out that the man's name was Henry Wood and that he earned a living performing magic tricks for soldiers. Holmes spoke to Wood's landlady. She said that Wood kept a small animal in the box. During the past two evenings, she had heard Wood crying and moaning. She also said that she had sometimes heard Wood speaking in a foreign language and that she thought he gave her a counterfeit coin when he paid his rent. Holmes was shown the coin and recognized it as an Indian rupee. Holmes plans to interview Wood the next day and wants Watson to come with him as a witness.
The following day, Holmes and Watson go to see Henry Wood in his lodging house. Holmes tells him that Mrs. Nancy Barclay, who has not yet regained consciousness, risks being tried for her husband's murder. To prevent that from happening, Henry Wood agrees to tell his story
Henry Wood was not always deformed. He had been a corporal in the regiment in India which later became the Royal Munsters. At that time, James Barclay was a sergeant in the same regiment. Henry Wood and James Barclay were both in love with Nancy Devoy. She preferred Henry Wood but her father wanted her to marry Barclay. At the time of the Indian Mutiny, Wood, Barclay and the rest of the regiment were among a thousand people, including civilian men, women and children, under siege in a town called Bhurlee. After two weeks, they had run out of water. Wood volunteered to go out and contact General Neill to ask for help. Barclay, who knew the area well, drew him a map which was supposed to show him how to avoid the enemy lines. In truth, through an Indian servant, Barclay had arranged for Wood to be captured by the rebels. Bhurlee was relieved by General Neill the next day.
The rebels tortured Wood, resulting in him becoming deformed. The rebels were later killed by some hill people who took Wood as their slave. He managed to escape and wandered for many years in Afghanistan and India. He earned a living by performing magic tricks. In his old age, Wood decided that he wanted to go back to England. He went to Aldershot simply because he knew how to entertain soldiers, not knowing that James and Nancy Barclay were there.
After his chance encounter with Nancy Barclay, Wood followed her home. From the main road, he saw Nancy Barclay berating her husband for the way he had mistreated Wood some thirty years earlier. He went over the wall of the house and entered the living room through the French windows. At the sight of wood, Colonel Barclay died from sheer fright. As he fell, he hit his head on the metal railing in front of the fireplace, although he was already dead by that time. Mrs. Barclay fainted. Wood went to unlock the door and ask for help. He then realized that he would be assumed to be Colonel Barclay's murderer. He left the door locked and absentmindedly put its key in his pocket. He left behind his walking stick, which was mistaken for a club, that he had used for, "chasing Teddy, who had run up the curtain", back into his box. Watson asks who Teddy is. Wood opens his box and reveals an animal which Watson recognizes as a mongoose. Wood explains that he uses the animal in his magic shows.
Wood is prepared to speak to the authorities. Holmes, however, hopes that it will not be necessary and that the late Colonel Barclay's ugly past will not be revealed. When Holmes and Watson leave Wood's lodging house, Major Murphy appears. Major Murphy says that Colonel Barclay was not killed by the blow to his head. An autopsy revealed that he died from natural causes.
Watson is confused as to why Nancy Barclay mentioned the name David during her argument with her husband, given that Colonel Barclay's first name was James and Wood's first name is Henry. Holmes explains that Mrs. Barclay was likening her husband to the Biblical King David. King David married a woman named Bathsheba after he sent her husband Uriah to certain death in a combat zone.
"The Adventure of the Crooked Man" was adapted as the fifth episode of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the first of four Granada TV series starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes. The episode first aired on the ITV network in the United Kingdom on May 22, 1984. The adaptation is a largely faithful one, although there are some differences from the original short story. Watson accompanies Holmes to Aldershot at the start of his investigation, indeed, it is only because of the interest that Watson, a former soldier, has in the case that Holmes agrees to accept it. It is strongly implied that James Barclay was only promoted because of his marriage to the commanding officer's daughter, something which Major Murphy appears to resent. Henry Wood is reunited with Nancy Barclay when he goes to the Christian charitable organization, where she works as a volunteer, to get some English clothes to replace the Indian ones he is wearing.
A radio adaptation of the story, starring Clive Merrison as Holmes, Michael Williams as Watson and Brian Blessed as Henry Wood, first aired on BBC Radio 4 in the United Kingdom on October 7, 1992. As in the 1984 television adaptation, Watson accompanies Holmes to Aldershot at the start of his investigation. Watson tells Wood that he should speak to Nancy Barclay again because he still has the chance of having a relationship with her. Watson says that Wood's deformity should not matter to Mrs. Barclay if she truly loves him. At the ens of the program, Watson says that he does not know if Wood followed his advice or not.